By Mint Witch
PG, this chapter.
Previous chapters at
http://www.geocities.com/cxyzjacobs/btvsfic/chrisindex.html and ff.net,
eventually. And if you ask nice.
Joss is my type-monkey; I keep him chained under my desk. Naughty, Joss, no
Thus this chapter begins my ode to Leonard Cohen. If you want to be spoiled,
listen to The Window. On second thought, don't; spoilers are evil. Oh, and
thanks to Canada for the beta, and Kimi
for twisting my rubber arm to post.
If I didn't want it, would we even be here?
PREVIOUSLY: Spike gets collared (Yum). Buffy invites Spike to live out a
Ramones song. Xander remains unhappy with Buffy's life choices. Fun with
cutlery. Dawn runs away to dance with suspicious hippies. Buffy's got a Brachen
beau. Golf balls from Heeeeeaven. Some walking and talking.
9. Of Locks and Keys
The unlikely group straggled into the basement of The Magic Shop with Buffy
galloping around her clotted companions, yelling, "Anya! It's me, it's
Buffy, Anya!" even as the room exploded into brilliance. The vampires
dived back into the tunnel, Spike cursing vigorously.
The glowing abruptly faded, and Buffy was relieved to see Anya snap her
spell-book shut. The shopkeeper had placed wards on every conceivable entrance
against strange demons and potential thieves, and was not the least bit
reluctant to launch fireballs at anyone who didn't enter through the front door
with wallet in hand.
"Is Dawn here, yet?" Spike caught the question as he and Gil
re-emerged from the tunnel, and shot her a quizzical look.
"She's here, yes. We were just wondering if you would show up." Anya
exchanged a complicated nod with Spike as Buffy passed her, and lagged behind
to usher the others up the stairs. "She brought Xander with her, I can't
imagine why. Oh! And I found that Dustin you were dating, lurking in the alley.
He still won't make a wish, by the way, despite being brutally dumped."
Oh dear god, not this, too. "Dylan, Anya, his name is Dylan Slater,"
Buffy muttered through clenched teeth, earning another look from Spike.
"Whatever." Closing the basement door behind them, Anya slid back to
her post behind the counter and sniffed. "I just thought I should keep you
informed. I'll let you know if he changes his mind."
Buffy forced herself to smile cordially at the three already seated around the
research table. What she really wanted to do was run out into the hailstorm and
get knocked unconscious for an hour or five.
"Hi, again, Buffy." Slater twiddled his fingers at her with shy
smile. "I'm glad you're okay."
Spike stalked bonelessly around the table and propped himself against a
bookcase, sword still in one hand. He smirked at her and mockingly waggled his
free fingers at the Slayer. She glared back.
Buffy should have remembered that dirty looks were Spike's favorite form of
encouragement. He set down the sword, clasped his hands under his chin, and
gazed longingly at the ceiling, mouthing 'Buuuuuu-uuuuffy.' Bastard. Not funny.
Forcing her eyes away from the immature vampire's antics, she sweetly addressed
the Brachen, "Yeah, I'm okay. How about you? You weren't caught outside,
It wasn't his fault that he was the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong
"I'm fine," he reassured her.
"I found him trying to take cover behind the dumpsters," Anya argued.
"He could've been killed."
"No, really, just a few bumps and bruises." Slater gave a
self-deprecating laugh. "My aunt would say that's what I get for
"Well, I'm still glad you're okay." Buffy transferred her gaze to
Xander and Dawn. "You guys?" They both shook their heads.
"Okay, quick intros, then with the research." She ran through the
cast list, introducing everyone quickly, trying not to notice how Slater's face
fell when she reached Spike. Avoidance: avoidance was key.
"Let's crack these books, people, time's a' wastin'!" Buffy chirped
desperately, clapping her hands once in an attempt to be upbeat and commander-y.
Spike's smirk broadened into a delighted grin. Argh.
Buffy ducked and scurried, planting herself in the chair next to Dawn.
"So, what do we know? Anything? Anya?"
The demon waved at the books piled on counter and table. "We've selected
the most frequently referenced prophecies, but unfortunately none describes
yuppie sports equipment. Rains of frogs are common, however, as are occurrences
of currency and small valuables falling from the sky."
Xander snorted, switching his attention from scowling at Spike to mocking his
ex-fiancée. "Pennies from Heaven? Hasn't that been done?"
"Wait, that's actually--" Buffy rose to pace around the table.
"Hattie said something about it not being pearls, and Spike, you said that
she and Gil have this theory about musicals and prophecy."
She looked for confirmation from the two hippies, but they were oblivious,
staring with interest at the assorted merchandise of the store.
"Hello! Gil?" He came to attention, looking at her expectantly.
"Musicals, prophecies? Does this ring a bell in there, somewhere?"
"Oi, Slayer, watch your tone," Spike came to his friend's defense.
Gil shook his head and looked down at his companion. "Not me, Slay-sister,
I'm just along for the ride." He nudged Hattie with a sandaled foot.
"But she's got us this far, so it's groovy."
The prophetess smiled brilliantly from her lotus on the floor.
Interrupting her pacing to sidle up to Spike, Buffy whispered, "Does she
ever make any sense?"
"Not often, luv, but she plays a mean game of Twister," he leered.
"I'll just bet." She threw him another glare and made a mental note
to discuss inappropriate boyfriend behavior later. A full-fledged argument had
exploded while her back was turned.
"Hollywood is run by demons,
Xander! Pennies From Heaven, Singing In The Rain, Charlton Heston," Anya
was retorting, shrilly.
He thumped his hand on the table, "It is not! You're just saying
that." There was no way Xander that would ever admit that The Matrix was
an evil plot. Not the best action movie ever made; it simply couldn't be.
"Oh, come on. The entire industry is based on apocalyptic prophecy and the
end of human oppression. Before motion pictures and TV, there were plays and
bards. Beowulf was a warning to demon-kind, you know."
Clem nodded soberly, finally joining the conversation. "Humans came and
drove us out of the fens: it was genocide. Very scary stuff. My grand-da used
to tell the story every Grofj Day. Kinda like Christmas in July," he
clarified for the humans.
"Oh, is that where that came from," Dawn murmured, looking
Buffy's head was beginning to hurt. "Okay, so what we have here is what,
the suburban version of rains of pearls, is that it?"
Dawn looked a little guilty. "Well, it makes sense." She opened her
backpack, revealing a tote stuffed full of golf balls she'd gathered in a
moment of inspiration before heading for the Magic Box. "The Pro Shop at
the country club pays for used balls recovered from the woods and stuff. Some
of my friends make extra money that way."
"Well," all heads turned to the Brachen, the only one of the group
who had actually cracked a book. "This one says that the coming of some
sort of god will be, er, 'heralded by a gift of the waters.' I think." He
shrugged. "But it also mentions other stuff. My early Sumerian isn't very
The Slayer groaned. "We so need Giles for this. Hell Gods I can do. Dead
languages, not so much."
"It doesn't mention a Key or anything, does it, Dyl?" Dawn looked a
little nervous. "'Cause if it does, I'm so outta here."
"Don't worry, Dawnie, no matter what happens, there are no more towers in
your future," Buffy reassured her sister.
"Duh! Like I care about that. Geez, Buffy," Dawn absently rubbed her
ribs, "I'm all ready doomed to a life without bikinis; I'm not giving up
middy tops." She set her chin, performing a Willow-worthy resolve face.
"There will be no more permanent scarring of the Key, ever. And that's
Spike jerked away from the bookcase he had been holding up, as if he'd been
burned, and stalked towards the girl, staring hard at Buffy all the while.
"No," he murmured, hand hovering over the girl's shoulder,
"there won't be. I'll dust before I fail you again, Bit."
Dawn's face softened, and she looked back at him. Spike dropped his gaze from
Buffy to meet the eyes of his chosen charge, and let himself touch her, the
barest brush of his fingertips against her hair. They communicated silently for
a long moment, the tension between them palpable to everyone in the room.
Buffy tried not squirm at the intensity of their connection. She'd been dead
when they had turned to each other, and it probably had not been easy, but they
made it seem so effortless. Spike and Dawn could forgive each other with a
glance, while Buffy struggled to even talk to them. Would it always be this
way, her sister and her lover closer to each other than either was to her?
They turned to look at her then, and the Slayer was no longer excluded. She
wasn't closed out, she was part and parcel of each, and they in turn were part
of her. Their combined gaze drew her forward until she was standing next to the
pair. Her fingers brushed Spike's through the curtain of Dawn's hair and an
electric charge seemed to run through Buffy.
Spike's eyes widened in surprise. He slipped his other arm around her waist,
and drew her against his side. She leaned into him gratefully, returning the
caress as her left hand dropped to rest on Dawn's shoulder.
Xander coughed. He was looking away from the scene, obviously uncomfortable,
but holding his tongue. His last ally was gone, which meant he would have to
get used to another vampire in Buffy's life or lose her and Dawn both.
Although, technically, this vampire was back in Buffy's life, but she'd hidden
it before, so he hadn't had to deal with it last year.
Turning his gaze to his old friend, Xander met the Slayer's sympathetic smile.
At least this time, she wasn't lying to everyone. And he didn't have to like
it. But he also didn't need to make this any harder for her than it would
Buffy turned her attention to Slater. He was concentrating on the book in front
of him as if his life depended on it, not just his heart. It wasn't her fault,
but she still felt guilty for putting him through this.
"Hey, guys?" The assembled Scoobs and auxiliaries looked up at her
soft call. "Why don't we call it a night? We've done as much as we can
here, and it seems to have stopped." At some point during Xander and
Anya's bitch- fest, the noise from outside had slackened, and now it was completely
silent outside, excepting car alarms. More than one Sunnydale resident would
wake up tomorrow to a broken windshield.
Gil helped his companion to her feet, as everybody stood and stretched,
shuffling towards the entrance. Buffy tightened her grip on Spike when he tried
to pull away, turning to him.
"Do you mind coming back to the house? I still want to talk to you,
okay?" He nodded agreement.
"Are we done, then?" Anya piped up. "Good. You can all leave,
now. Please come back during regular business hours with money, and thank you
for visiting The Magic Box."
Buffy drew Spike away as Dawn stood and stretched. "I am going to be
totally scragged tomorrow." She grinned at her older sister. "Unless
my favorite person in the whole world wants to write me a note. Pullleeeeze,
Buffy? Let me stay home," she pleaded, "I don't have any tests
tomorrow or anything, and I can totally get the homework from Janice and Lisa.
"Uh-uh. If I can go to work, you can go to school."
"But you have super-powers: super-stay-awake-Slayer-powers!" Dawn's
whine went straight to Buffy's guilt reflex, but she held firm.
"Dawn," she warned, "you are going to school tomorrow, and
that's final. Do not make me sic the Kroger on you."
The teenager crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue, deliberately juvenile.
"Klepto." The girls dissolved into giggles, as Spike looked on in
shock and Xander watched fondly from the doorway.
It was good to see them like this, acting like sisters, not warden and inmate.
Dawn had been so thoroughly inserted into their memories that it was easy to
forget she and Buffy were practically strangers only a year or two ago. The
remembrances were actually a handicap to the sisters' relationship, creating a
false sense of familiarity not grounded in reality. But over the summer, the
slight awkwardness between them had gradually vanished, replaced by a deep
loyalty and true affection. Enough so that they could now tease each other and
A knot deep in Xander's soul loosened, releasing tension and resentment he
hadn't even realized was there. They were beautiful, but they weren't his. Like
Anya, they belonged only to themselves, and he was merely privileged enough to
be included in their lives. It was more than enough.
"Hey, Anya," he began nervously, "can I, uh, walk you
Anya looked up at him sharply. "I am perfectly capable of apparating
myself, Xander," she reminded him with asperity. "I am a vengeance
demon, as you seem to prefer to forget."
Xander winced, but pushed on. "Then, um, would you mind walking me home?
Dawn brought me here and." he gestured out into the dark night.
A softly startled look passed over Anya's face and a tiny smile flickered
around her mouth. "Oh! Um. Of course, Xander. I should have realized you
are human and defenseless. Just let me lock up, and I would be, um. I will.
yes." Flustered, she turned to the remaining threesome, said a hurried
goodnight, and joined Xander at the door, locking it closed behind her.
Spike watched the exchange with amusement. It looked like Puff Daddy was well
on his way to reconciliation with his demon-girl. Good on him. Unfortunately,
he was now locked in the shop with Buffy and Dawn; not that it was necessarily
a bad thing, but..
"I hate to destroy a tender moment, pet, but are we camping out in here or
am I to break out a window?"
"You haven't told him?" Dawn snickered.
"I thought you did!" Buffy protested, releasing her hold on Spike and
holding up her hands defensively. "It's yours to tell, anyway."
"Oh, yeah, right." Dawn rolled her eyes and flipped her hair back.
"Like that's ever stopped you before, blabbermouth."
The girl eyed the vampire speculatively and snickered again. "Watch and be
She sauntered over to the closed door of what Spike distinctly remembered as a
utility closet and pushed up her sleeves. Throwing a mischievous wink at Buffy,
the Key pulled a tiny switchblade from her pocket, snapped it open, and ran her
finger down the razor sharp edge.
A thin, red line of blood oozed out of the cut; Dawn reached out, grasped the
doorknob firmly with her wounded hand, and threw open the door with a flourish.
"Holy fuck!" Spike yelled as Buffy seized his hand and dragged him
towards the rectangle of green light.
"Show off," she muttered at her sister as she propelled the stunned
vampire through the portal.
"Bloody fucking fuck!" Spike was still shouting obscenities when they
stepped through into Buffy's bedroom. Dawn followed calmly, struggling to keep
a straight face as the realization of where they had landed finally shut him
Handing the blade to Buffy, Dawn stepped away from the portal. The Slayer
sliced her own finger, reached through the wall of viridian light and pulled
the door shut.
She closed the miniature switchblade and tossed it back to Dawn, watching Spike
warily. His eyes were wide and shocked, his gaze flicking back and forth
between the two sisters.
With a choked sound, he flung himself at the closet, trying to push it open,
but the door had reverted to it's natural closet state and once again opened
into the room. After a few seconds of struggle, Spike was finally able to grasp
the concept, and wrenched the door wide, only to be confronted with Buffy's
stylish yet affordable wardrobe.
He slammed the closet shut again and leaned back against it, mouth working
silently as he stared in panic at Buffy and Dawn. Buffy was doubled over with
laughter, tears streaming down her face.
"That was cruel, Dawn," she gasped.
Dawn had fallen back onto Buffy's bed, howling and holding her stomach.
"Oh. oh. but so funny!" She pointed weakly at Spike. "You. ha!
You should've seen your face! Omigod!"
Buffy slowly regained control of herself, clutching her aching side.
"I'm sorry, Spike, that was really mean," she chortled, not the least
little bit repentant.
"What the bloody fuck was that?" he roared at the giggling duo.
Dawn sobered slightly and sat up. Giving Spike a smug look, she indicated the
closet, "Door," herself, "Key," and Buffy,
His head whipped toward Buffy. "Lock?"
"Kinda, yeah. More like Anti-Key, though." She shrugged. "We're
not sure why, but Giles is researching it."
"How did you--" The vampire was still unable to form complete
"Figure it out? Kind of a funny story, actually." Buffy shifted
uncomfortably. "In a deeply scary and almost fatal kinda way."
Dawn nodded agreement. "Big scary accident. Mucho badness." She
smirked. "But for future reference, you might want to be careful about
pissing me off. Just a suggestion."
"Enough, Dawn, I think he gets the idea." Spike gaped at the
inappropriately amused twosome as he tried to assimilate what had just
"I think you broke him, Dawnie," Buffy observed.
"Naw, he'll get over it."
"I don't know. Maybe you should have warned him first."
"Hey, a picture's worth a thousand words, right?" Dawn shrugged,
unconcerned. "Whatever. I've gotta crash, since a certain evil someone is
making me go to school tomorrow." She glanced at the bedside clock.
"Make that today," she said pointedly, and levered herself off of
Buffy's bed. "You should too, if you're gonna go to work tomorrow."
Buffy grimaced. "I know, but I have to call Giles first; he'll want to
know what's going on."
"Yeah." Dawn kissed her sister's cheek as she let herself out.
"See ya tomorrow, sis, evil dead."
"Sleep good, Dawnie." Buffy smiled affectionately at her sister's
back, before turning to Spike. He still looked completely shell-shocked. She
grabbed his hand and led him firmly from the room.
"C'mon, White Fang. Let's get you some blood before you pass out."
Continued in 10. Closing Time